Sir Richard Riche is the Solicitor-General in The Tudors and a prominent member of the Privy Council. He appears briefly in Season Two and later as a recurring character in Seasons Three and Four. He is played by English actor Rod Hallett.
Unlike many of the other courtiers and Council members who are very clear about their positions in regard to the English Reformation, Riche's true beliefs are harder to determine; he switches his allegiance based on what will keep him King Henry's favor, but even in private he gives contradicting statements on his allegiance to both Catholicism and Protestantism. Nonetheless, Riche is a well-established survivor, having seen many figures fall under Henry's regime (including his own mentor, Thomas Cromwell). By the series finale, Riche remains Solicitor-General. He continued to play a role in the governments of Henry's children Edward VI and Mary I, and briefly during the reign of Elizabeth I.
In episode 2.05 Richard Riche visits Sir Thomas More in his cell in the Tower of London; they are evidently former acquaintances. Riche poses a hypothetical question to More on the subject of Henry's supremacy, to which More replies with one of his own; Riche seems satisfied. However, it is later revealed at More's trial that Riche only did so in order to gain verbal evidence of More's treason- that is, denying the supremacy of Henry VIII as Head of the Church of England. Riche sadly gives the evidence to the court as More stares at him in disgust.
Riche also plays a role in the investigation of Anne Boleyn's household in episode 2.09, helping Cromwell find evidence of her supposed guilt as an adulteress by interrogating her ladies-in-waiting. Once a confession has been extracted (albeit through torture) Riche and Charles Brandon arrest Anne and escort her to the Tower.
Riche has a much more prominent role in Season Three; in 3.01 he is shown to be the protege of sorts to Thomas Cromwell, the King's First Minister. Riche privately remarks to Cromwell that he thinks the Reformation is at risk, as the new Queen, Jane Seymour, is privately a Catholic. He expresses regret for the recent execution of Anne Boleyn, as she was a staunch supporter of the Reformation. However, Cromwell dismisses his worries, showing him how the dissolution of the monasteries has given the King- and the Protestants- enormous wealth, now that the idolatry of the Catholic Church is exposed to the working class.
Cromwell's confidence, however, is soon shown to be unfounded when the rebellion known as the Pilgrimage of Grace erupts in Northern England. Ultimately, it is crushed, and Riche tries and condemns most of its' leaders (including Lord Thomas Darcy, Sir Ralph Ellerker and Robert Aske) but he realizes that Cromwell has lost a great deal of favor with the King due to the rebellion. In episode 3.05 he becomes further worried when the King lapses into depression after Jane Seymour's death; he and Cromwell are unable to run the kingdom because the nobility and the Council dislike Cromwell and refuse to obey his orders. At the close of the episode, encouraged by the Catholic Bishop Gardiner, Henry signs the draft of the Six Articles of Faith, halting the progress of the Reformation, to the horror of Riche and Cromwell.
While Riche chooses to stop pursuing further reforms, Cromwell continues to seek courses of action that will bring England back into the Lutheran fold; this culminates in his disastrous arrangement of Henry's fourth marriage to Anne of Cleves, which loses Cromwell all his remaining support from the King. In the Season Three Finale, Cromwell is finally arrested and condemned to death by his many enemies. Riche, unwilling to be found guilty by association, switches his allegiance to the King's Secretary, Thomas Wriothesley- a supporter of the pro-Catholic Gardiner- and reluctantly gives evidence suggesting Cromwell is also guilty of heresy.
Although Riche had clearly taken Gardiner and Wriothesley's side during Cromwell's downfall, he shows little contact with them early in the season, perhaps feeling guilty about his betrayal of his colleague and mentor. He accompanies the King on his progress of the North; during their stop at a tavern the talk turns to the King's oversexed young wife, Katherine Howard. Riche seems somewhat disturbed by Thomas Culpepper's sexual fascination for her, reprimanding him by reminding him that she belongs to the King. In episode 4.05, Riche is once again charged with investigating the sexual history of the King's wife, this time for Katherine; he interrogates her handmaiden Joan Bulmer. Despite reassuring her that she will not be punished if she tells the truth, Riche easily intimidates Joan and she quickly gives him full details of Katherine's sexual history. Subsequent investigation by Edward Seymour (gained through the torture of Francis Dereham) proves her guilty of adultery to the King, leading to her and Culpepper's execution.Later in the season (particularly after King Henry's leg injury almost overcomes him), Riche increasingly allies himself with the Catholic faction at court, as they are backing Princess Mary as the heir over her Protestant-raised half-brother Edward; regardless of his unknown religious loyalties, he clearly views her as a more secure candidate than a young child. In episode 4.09, he informs her of the death of her friend Eustace Chapuys, reassuring her that she still has powerful friends at Court and that work is afoot to destroy her Protestant stepmother Catherine Parr, whom she views as a dangerous influence on her half-siblings. Riche, along with Wriothesley, also personally participates in the torture of the Protestant Anne Askew. However, the attempt by Gardiner and Wriothesley to charge Catherine with heresy fails, and Gardiner is banished from Court, while Wriothesley hastily changes his allegiance to the Seymour brothers. Riche's fate is left unknown, but given what history suggests he managed to change sides again.
Riche continued to switch his religious allegiance under the reign of Henry's successors, having received noble titles under Henry. During the Protestant reign of Edward VI, he became Lord Chancellor for several years and led the prosecution of his former Catholic ally Bishop Gardiner, leading to the latter's imprisonment. However, when Edward was succeeded by his sister Mary (a staunch Catholic) Riche once again switched his tune, leading the persecution and sometimes the torture of prominent Protestants; he was demoted from the position of Chancellor (which was given to Gardiner) but escaped Mary's wrath. When Mary died, after initially being dismissed he was restored to the Privy Council under the reign of the pro-Protestant Elizabeth I and was responsible for making inquiries for a potential marriage for the Queen. These inquiries turned fruitless, as Elizabeth never married or had children. Riche died in 1567, nine years into Elizabeth's reign; he was the only Privy Council member from Henry's reign to survive through the reigns of all of Henry's children. Many of his sixteen children made profitable marriages, ensuring that the Riche family became a strong noble dynasty for the next three hundred years.